If you’re looking for good ol’ home cookin’ served with a heaping side of southern hospitality while visiting central Florida, Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ Kitchen is the place to go. It’s where you’ll find fried chicken perfection and service with a genuine smile. But most of you know that our family has to manage food allergies when we eat out. So, how well does Homecomin’ Kitchen manage dietary restrictions? We had the opportunity to experience this first hand and wanted to share our personal experience with you!
I was provided a complimentary meal for my review. However, all opinions are 100% mine and mine alone. This post also contains affiliate links. Please see my Disclosure policy for more information.
My family and I have enjoyed this popular eatery in Disney Springs in the past with success. However, it had been awhile and we were looking for a fresh perspective to add to the blog. Not to mention, I wanted to update my food allergy followers on the process of dining at a third party restaurant at Walt Disney World.
Let’s Talk a Little Homecomin’ History
Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin Kitchen opened back in 2016 as the Disney Springs transformation was underway. The restaurant’s theme pays homage to Florida’s rich agricultural heritage, highlighting locally grown ingredients, as well as a farm-to-table cuisine. Of course, it also boasts quite highly of its Moonshine, which is VERY popular and something that I cannot believe we didn’t try this time!! (hangs head in shame).
The southern-style eatery has some of the best fried chicken in town and some of these entreés will literally have you thinking you were back home at Mom’s (or Grandma’s) kitchen table.
In fact, Homecomin’ Kitchen’s presence in Walt Disney World is very much like a “coming home” for the famous chef himself. Back in 1981, Chef Art was actually a part of the Magic Kingdom College Program (now the Walt Disney World College Program). Now, he has the pleasure of running a culinary gem right in the heart of the magic.
Our Homecomin’ Evening
Upon our arrival for dinner, we were sweetly greeted with smiles by both the Cast Member at the outside podium and one standing her post on the inside. The dining area is quite casual and homey with a bar off one side and both large booths and tables with chairs throughout the open space to accommodate almost any sized party. There is even outdoor seating for those who love fresh air and when the weather cooperates.
Our wait was short and we were escorted to a very large booth that fit the four of us very well. I personally love these booths! They are very spacious and provide ample room so that no one is bumping into the other during dinner. It also helps because it provides our son, who has severe food allergies, enough space to keep his food safe and away from ours.
Meeting our Server
It took a few minutes for our server to arrive at our table, but all was good. There was quite a bit of activity going on that evening. The restaurant is a very popular venue at Disney Springs and, since it’s part of the Disney Dining Plan, it does get a lot of traffic!
DISNEY DINING PLAN: Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’
2018 Entitlements Required
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When Chris did arrive, he had a very sweet smile and demeanor about him. He was eager and willing to listen and help us make some difficult meal decisions. We took some time to discuss the menu a little and then launched into tremendous detail about our son’s food allergies.
It is very important to us that we speak as candidly and openly about food allergies as possible as any slip up could land our tween-age son in the hospital ~ or worse.
Chris listened very attentively and ran down the process for ordering a special dietary meal in their restaurant. He explained that the manager would come over to the table to review options and discuss safety measures. The manager would then personally discuss the situation with the head chef and make sure that all necessary precautions were taken.
That worked! As long as we were face to face, eye to eye, and were able to effectively communicate the situation to someone in charge. Logan is very much a stickler when it comes to making sure he himself can trust who is making his food (as is his mama).
Once that was established, Chris took our drink orders and gave us a few extra minutes to review the menu a little more.
Hubby ordered the 16 oz Rumshine Punch and I ordered the Royal Sangria. While I enjoyed mine, Hubby had the winner for the evening. Why we didn’t order Moonshine ~ I still can’t figure that one out!! The boys both had lemonade.
Meeting Brett (aka Brettzky….you had to be there)
Within minutes, this charismatic New Yorker came strolling over to the table with a ginormous smile on his face ready to introduce himself. As soon as I saw the “New York” on his name tag, I had to ask which part. We’ve lived in a few places within the state, so I’m always curious. When Brett shared that he hails from an area with which we are actually personally familiar near Upstate New York, there was an instant connection! From there, the conversation was comfy and easy!
During the get-to-know-you part of the chat, we also found out that Brett met his beautiful wife here at Walt Disney World. They both happened to be working at Rainforest Cafe at the time. Though they are still both Disney employees and enjoy their magical connection, they do now work in separate areas on the property.
Discussing Food Allergies In More Detail
Okay – so, it’s no secret that, when we dine out with our son, we have to take several very necessary precautions in order to ensure his safety. He is allergic to eggs, peanuts and treenuts and has the potential to go anaphylactic if any of those ingredients enter his system in any way. Anaphylaxis is when two or more systems in the body react to something it considers foreign. The reactions may include reactions such as hives, swelling, vomiting, choking…or even worse.
You can read more about our food allergy story here
In light of that potential danger, it is our standard routine to discuss our son’s situation with the manager or, preferably, the Chef, when it comes to eating out at a restaurant. Because the situation can turn tragic quickly, we need to know that the Chef understands 110%. Fortunately, a lot of Chefs on Disney property are well-versed, well-trained in accommodating food allergies, which is why we call this place our second home.
A number of restaurants on Disney property have allergy menus for Guests to glean. However, that may not be the case with a lot of third party restaurants and Homecomin’ Kitchen appears to be one of them (or at least we were never offered one to review). A third party restaurant at Walt Disney World is simply one that is not owned by Disney. This is why speaking with a manager or chef is critical. Besides, sometimes those allergy menus are too restricting and there may be something different the Chef can do in back that may not be listed on that laminated card.
Our standard practices and the impression Brett gave us
Whenever we eat out as a family, we usually have something meal-wise with us just in case our son doesn’t feel comfortable enough eating at the establishment of choice. However, this particular night was not a “stand-by” night as he ended up feeling very comfortable with how Brett communicated with him and to the chefs even while standing right there at our table.
During our chat with Brett, we took time to discuss the dangers of cross contamination and disclaimers in our particular situation. Brett assured us that everything would be made in a separate, newly cleaned location and that new gloves would be worn by the Chef preparing Logan’s meal. We discussed ingredients and Brett reviewed each food that would be on Logan’s plate to ensure there were no disclaimers or issues that would cause alarm.
Ultimate Decision regarding a food allergy-friendly meal
In the end, we decided on the Chopped Pork Barbecue Plate for Logan with a few accommodations. While the entreé normally comes with macaroni and cheese and a cheddar bay biscuit, neither of those sides are safe for our son. So, we were able to substitute them with a salad and mashed potatoes. I had one very happy tween-ager!!
Bonus! He was able to have the balsamic dressing and didn’t have to settle for oil and vinegar or a dry salad!
In the meantime…
Brett took that order to the back and Chris returned to get the remainder of our order.
Let’s chat about our server!
You guys know I love to share Cast Member stories. It’s a fascinating fetish of mine to hear where people are from and to learn their Disney story.
Chris has been working with Homecomin’ Kitchen since it opened in 2016. So, I guess you can say he’s an original Cast member (lol) for this venue! He started off as a bartender, but moved over to server when he was looking to adjust his hours. Though he still tends bar from time to time, he really enjoys taking care of the tables. He is a native Floridian, just like Chef Art, and graduated from UCF (University of Central Florida). He is full-time here at Disney, but enjoys spending quality time at home with his family, which now includes his ten month old son. (cue huge Awwwwwwww).
Okay, Can We Get To What You Guys Ordered?
I hear you!! Let’s get to the good stuff!
We decided to go with two appetizers because we really couldn’t decide on which one to settle. Since we have tried the deviled eggs in the past (and loved them), we decided to go with the Jasper Board and the Bee Haven Bay Fried Green Tomatoes.
NOTE: We have been managing food allergies in our family for over a decade. We have developed some routines and practices that have enabled us to have allergens AT the table while Logan is sitting with us. Please ~ be aware of your own limitations. If you cannot have allergens AT the table, please do not risk it!!!! Again, we have been doing this for years and know what works for us. That, of course, does not eliminate the necessity for us to take extreme precautions ~ which we ALWAYS do!
When the appetizers came, we were already salivating. Oh, my goodness. The presentation was spectacular and both plates looked so delicious.
The Jasper Board
The Jasper Board is what my teenage son dove into near immediately ~ well, after pictures, of course. The smoked fish dip was mild with a nice herb flavor. It wasn’t “fishy” at all. The pimento spread was not overpowering and perfectly spread on the giant basket of cracker pieces we received. The shaved country and Tasso ham portion of the board was quite salty, but that’s to be expected. It was tamed when placed on the cracker with some of the spread. The buttered pickles were delish and my teenager was literally in heaven.
One thing that impressed us was that the chef, out of concern for Logan’s safety, kept the candied pecans off the board. Even though we, as a family, know how to manage allergens at the table (see above), we were okay with this. It showed that the chef was paying attention and wanted to avoid potential issues. Kudos and thanks, Chef!!!
Bee Haven Bay Fried Green Tomatoes
The Bee Haven Bay Fried Green Tomatoes were breaded just perfectly ~ a nice layer of fried topping, not too salty, not too thick. The tomato slice was cut just right and sliced easily on our plates with a knife. The tomatoes were topped with shaved ham, which added just enough of a salt flavor to the portioned bite. The remoulade drizzle, though ~ oh, my! Not to spicy, just enough to add a flavorful burst. A perfect combination! Winner, winner!
It’s not fun to sit there with nothing in front of you while everyone else at the table is devouring good eats. Fortunately, Logan likes salad, so we asked that the salad portion of his meal be brought out with our appetizers. We also reiterated that the salad, as well as any other food for him, be brought out in separate arms in order to avoid any potential for cross contamination from other plates.
The Entreé Portion
We did this one right. Hubby, the teenager and I ordered something completely different from each other so that we could maximize the experience ~ and have ample pictures to share!!
Aaryn chose the Capitol Meatloaf.
This is a dish that was often requested at the Florida Governor’s Mansion while Chef Art served there for a few years. With the first bite, Aaryn seemed to “transcend reality.” (His words) His eyes rolled back into his head and he uttered something that made my heart sink.
“This is the BEST meatloaf I have EVER tasted!“
Well, if that didn’t hit me hard!!!
It’s okay. I get it. I mean, this is Chef Art Smith’s recipe. Who do I think I am to believe my meatloaf would be better than his?
Aaryn still apologized, but only because he knew my heart sank a little. He refused to take it back, so it was clear that he was quite satisfied with his choice.
Hubby chose Art’s Famous Fried Chicken.
This plate came with creamy mashed potatoes, buttered pickles and a side of yummy homemade gravy. The look on my husband’s face when he took that first bite again made me a little insecure, but it was good to see he was enjoying himself. He had been craving that fried chicken for some time. Chef Art’s recipe uses a lighter batter and the chicken was nice and juicy. The mashed potatoes were a perfect consistency and exactly what you would expect coming out of a southern-influenced kitchen.
My choice? I chose the Fried Chicken Salad
Oh, am I ever trying to be a good girl ~ but that’s next to impossible when you are surrounded by such fabulous options! I still choose my veggies and added a little treat with the fried chicken. The plate was ginormous and filled with tomatoes, cucumbers, eggs (see above food allergy disclaimer), cheese, croutons and more! The dressing was an “icebox” dressing. When I asked Chris what that meant, he explained it to me as being their house Ranch. The consistency of it is more fluid than to which I am accustomed, but it had a delicious and light dill taste to it. It wasn’t my favorite flavor, but it worked for that night and is still a good option!
But what about Dessert?
Oh, my! There was no way we were escaping without satisfying our collective sweet tooth. Hubby and the middle son would not allow it. On a sad note, though, there really wasn’t anything Logan could have for dessert. Even the raspberry sorbet had a disclaimer on it that said it was manufactured in a facility that also processed at least one of the allergens. This is why I always recommend having something on hand ~ just in case a scenario like this arises. It may very well save the littles who have food allergies from going nuclear.
However, Logan knows that he is going to get something at some point to make up for it, so he was good with our having dessert. Never mind the fact that he felt as though his stomach was about to burst anyway! They fed him well!
So, what sugary dessert did we order?
We took a look at the menu, which comes on this adorable laminated doily. The main attraction depends upon whether you are over 21 or not. For those over 21, the favored dessert is usually the Shine Cake, which has ~ you guessed it ~ moonshine as one of the ingredients. For those under 21, or who simply do not care for alcohol, the primary choice is the amazingly delicious Hummingbird Cake.
Here’s a funny story…..
There are five options listed on the laminated dessert menu. We thought we had initially ordered the top three choices – the Shine Cake, Hummingbird Cake and Auntie’s Chocolate Cake. Just like our dinners, it gave us each a choice and we could sample each of them. However, there was a silly miscommunication somewhere and we ultimately ended up with each of the five dessert offerings!!!
Needless to say, we brought quite a bit home with us. Of course, the bonus was that this allowed us to indulge a second night on these decadent desserts (and some of our dinner!). Each one of them ~ including the Hamilton County Chocolate Pecan Pie and the Doughnut (which we actually DID wait to have until the next day) ~ were amazing. The cakes were moist. The pie was smooth. The donuts were downright delicious and the Shine Cake….well, I enjoyed that very much.
We really had no complaints!. While we wish they had something we could have ordered for our son dessert-wise, we have the understanding that some places just aren’t going to be able to accommodate. That’s why it’s important to be proactive and have a plan set in place just in case that occurs. The attention paid by Brett, Chris and the Chefs was still stellar. We had no issues when it came to providing our son with a safe, food allergy-friendly meal. The Cast Members were amazing ~ very hospitable, personal, engaging and accommodating where they could be.
Would We Recommend Dining at Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ Kitchen?
Absolutely!! This is a restaurant where the whole family can sit around the table, dine on “high end comfort food” (as Hubby likes to call it), partake in a little Moonshine or another specialty drink, and just relax in a setting that really does feel like a good ol’ southern kitchen.
Would We Recommend For Those With Food Allergies?
This one is something you are going to have to discern based upon your own medical needs and comfort levels. There are pecans in the facility. They do use egg. Milk and wheat are obviously used in several items, as well. It’s a matter of discussing the situation directly with the manager or chef. Do not be afraid to speak candidly and openly. The goal is to hopefully find something that can and will work safely for you or the person with you who has food allergies.
I do want to recommend that you be kind when explaining your situation. Please remember that Cast Members are human, too. It’s always better to develop a good connection rather than one that starts with static. I know it’s a scary situation at times to eat out with food allergies. It is also extremely important to get the information out there and communicated effectively. It’s just good to start with a smile and good eye contact (wink, wink).
READ ALSO: Our experience at Satul’i Canteen !!
Fortunately, we have had success here in the past and we’re going to chalk this dining experience up as another win. Of course, we found an entreé that Logan really enjoys here, so that helps tremendously. The fried chicken would not be an option for him, nor would the meatloaf. I simply recommend that you study the menu, call ahead and still discuss it with the manager when you get there. Do your homework before you venture out. For eggs, peanuts and tree nut allergies ~ there are a few options to enjoy so that you do not walk away hungry.
**Be sure to also take a peek at my friend Julie’s experience dining at Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ Kitchen!!
So – if you were to ask us what we enjoyed the most, it would be tough in some respects. However, I was able to corner the boys in order to come up with something.
To drink (adult question)?
Rumshine Punch. We’re fans of rum…..that’s the only reason.
The Jasper Board was great!! But I’ve had the deviled eggs before and they are amazing!!
Art’s Famous Fried Chicken, but Aaryn was sold on that meatloaf.
Oh, that’s a toughy!! Shine Cake, if going for the adult dessert. Hummingbird Cake, otherwise.
For more information regarding Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ Kitchen menu, click here.
The best part of dining at Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ Kitchen, though, really is the service. When we dined back in the summer of 2017, we had tremendous conversations with both the manager and server, Autumn and Emily. That same thing happened this evening and it puts within us a desire to go back and visit again. Logan isn’t stuck with a burger, grilled chicken or pizza at this restaurant. That means it’s a solid pick in his book.
So, let’s say you’re visiting Disney Springs and looking for “high-end comfort food” (again, thank the Hubs). I’d give this southern gem a try. The service comes with a smile, the sweet tea is real, the Moonshine is ready and the fried chicken is calling for you!
If you do give it a try, drop me a note to let me know what you think! In the meantime, let me know which entreé or dessert would be on your must-try list!!!
For more food allergy Disney experiences and tips:
- Dating Around World Showcase: Leaving Footprints in Japan
- How Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party “Treats” Food Allergies
- Experiencing Sanaa: Disney Dining With Spice
- Pleasing the Palate at Boma ~ Flavors of Africa: A Restaurant and Food Allergy Review
- Food Allergies & The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival: Part 2 ~ The Experience
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